You’ve seen stories of people who’ve gone to the battlefield and been reported missing in action, presumed dead. Then a report comes through that they have been seen and those that know them are excited but don’t know whether they dare to believe it, or not, “are you sure? What proof do you have?” I wont believe it until I see him or her. Then the thrill, the joy, of encountering, the one presumed dead.
For those who followed Jesus it was a similar story, he had been arrested, tried, put to death, buried. It was over. It had been so good while it lasted, but it shouldn’t have ended like this.
Their Friend had gone into a battle unlike any other, in fact ever since He had been born He had been caught up in it. Every day, every week, every month and every year of His life was a battle, a battle against the forces of sin, death and hell. It was one that had been going on soon after the early days of creation, when Satan had deceived Adam and Eve and tricked them into trusting him and breaking covenant with their creator, their Father. Disobedience led to darkness as they now found themselves cut off from Father God, the source of love, life, light and liberty. Now they found themselves captives to sin and Satan, caught in a downward spiral, a spiral that ensnared the whole human race, a spiral from which no one could break free, as hard as they might try, it was impossible – all sinned, all fell short of God’s glory, all were held captive by sin and Satan.
It was into this sad and sorry story that God stepped in the person of Jesus. He took on real flesh, as Paul puts it, “He came in the likeness of sinful flesh,” the writer to the Hebrews says he was “made like us in every way.” Yes, he took on our flesh, was tempted in every way as we are, and day by day He fought for us. There were times when the battle was intense, when the enemy came at Him hard. Yet not once did he fall prey to his devices, not once did He yield and sin. Every moment of every day He was obedient to the Father. He never failed Him once – later Pilate was to say at His trial that he found no fault in Him! None.
But before that, there was the garden, Gethsemane – a place filled with olive trees, a place that spoke of squeezing and crushing. Suddenly the heat turned up as the enemy closed in. As Jesus approached this final act of obedience, the intensity was huge. He had been born for this moment. Principalities and powers had an inkling of what this was about and all along they had tried to take Him out, prevent Him from this final act of obedience. But Jesus was having none of it.
As He feels in His own being something of the intensity of this battle and the purpose for which He came, the bearing of our sin and it’s consequences, the paying of the price, of being the atoning sacrifice, of dieing a death the like of which there had been no other and there would be no other, one more time he goes to Father and prays, “Father, if it’s possible, let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will, but yours be done.” He again surrenders in His humanity to the Father’s will, a purpose they had agreed on in time past, a moment in eternity.
Whilst praying, Roman soldiers arrive and He is arrested and taken away. He is then subjected to a rigged trial and sentenced to death, a criminals death on a Roman cross along with two others. Humanly, the end. That was it. All that His followers had anticipated in Jesus was now lost in dissillussionment as they saw Him hanging there.
They left that place with hopes dashed, heavy hearts, and big questions.
Then three days later to their amazement reports began to come in that the tomb was empty, that people had seen Him, that He was alive. I mean, come on, alive! No one rises from the dead. No one gets out of a sealed tomb guarded by Roman soldiers. No one.
There’s commotion amoung the guard, what are they going to say, do – let’s hush it up, let’s explain it away, let’s come up with a story….
But the reports continue. Different people, different situations. Then one day the disciples are together and suddenly He, Jesus, appeared to them, right there. They were astounded. Shocked. Thought they had seen a ghost. Then He showed them the wounds in His hands and side, and asked for something to eat – and they just looked at Him, just looked…….. Its true! Wounds, eating! Its Him! Really!
Then there was Thomas, doubting Thomas as we have got to call him. He wasn’t there, and when he heard about it, he just couldn’t believe it, it was like impossible, after all, people don’t rise from the dead. Then a few days later they were all together again, this time including Thomas, and suddenly Jesus was there standing among them again, even though the doors are locked. He gives them His peace and then turns to Thomas and says, “Come, look at my hands, put your finger in the wound, feel the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
Yes, it was Him! He is alive! ALIVE! “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. To which Jesus responds, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”
Yes, He’s ALIVE. He has won. Satan, sin, death and hell have been defeated. The price has been paid. Sin atoned. It is finished hear Him cry!
Don Fransisco brings it out well in his song “He’s Alive!” Written from the perspective of Peter. It carries the thrill of that discovery, why not go listen – https://youtu.be/4Lmv_xR6_q8